The Lessons of 2017

I’ve changed a lot this year. Mostly for the better. New Years usually isn’t a big deal to me anymore. It used to be the time when I’d look back and go “Well that sucked, but next year will be better” only to say the same thing again a year later.

Not this year. If we’re being honest, this year was a mixed bag. But that’s only talking about the external things. The area where I’ve gained the most is with personal growth. I was able to finally see some blind spots and also reaffirm some things I had already suspected.

So before the year ends, here are the five most important things I’ve learned this year.

Laugh at Yourself

This revelation came up when I read an in-depth open letter about narcissism. Jury’s still out on whether I’m a narcissist myself, but I’m not the best person to judge that. “I’m not a narcissist” is exactly what a narcissist would say.

I sometimes find it hard to take a joke, though. This wouldn’t be such an issue if not for two factors: First, I tend to make the same kinds of friendly jokes with other people. Second, I sometimes retaliate to jokes by intentionally humiliating other people.

I also have a somewhat dry wit and people don’t always get me when I’m joking. I’ve been told by someone who gets my humor that I seem British sometimes. This is probably due to all the British YouTubers, British panel shows, and Doctor Who I consume.

Anyway, this is one I’m still working on. I still get embarrassed when I mess up and someone calls it out. The solution is to either be perfect at everything or learn to laugh at myself. And only one of those is possible.

Go Love Yourself

I’ve had debates over this one because I have strong feelings about this. I’ve mentioned before that sometimes my relationships become my identity. That is, I’m no longer just David. I’m David, who’s dating so-and-so.

I guess I just find the concept of loving myself too hard so I want to find someone else to do it for me.

Actually now that I’ve read that back, the evidence that I’m a narcissist is stacking up just a little too neatly.

But the logic goes, how can you expect someone else to love you if you can’t love yourself?

I think that’s fair, personally, because it’s unfair to expect someone to love a self-loathing person with low self-esteem who hates themselves. That’s not a very attractive image unless you’re the sort of person who’s into fixer-uppers.

Here’s where I run into a problem. I don’t like people who are like me. If you were to create a copy of me and we were to hang out, I think we’d hate each other by the end of the day.

I’m not the kind of person to just accept that, though. If there’s something I don’t like about myself, I should be the one to notice it and work on it. And it’s a little easier if I don’t think about this as actually me, but rather as a copy of me. Like, who would I want to hang out with? Create that person, then become that person.

It’s You Judging Them

I am a generally shy person. However, I was once with someone who insisted on me talking to store clerks and service reps and other strangers because I was better at talking to people. This was strange to me. I mumble sometimes, I have a subtle lisp, and I’ve once been referred to as “ma’am” over the phone. I then deepened my voice lower than normal levels for the rest of the call.

But this is something I realized at the gym.

I used to be self-conscious about the gym because I thought people would be looking at me wondering what the hell I’m even doing there. Then I caught myself judging other people at the gym, where I didn’t feel comfortable. In that above-linked post, I pointed out that we probably all feel judged at the gym, but that there’s a certain camaraderie because of this. However, I became the person who judges. Then I realized, that’s why I feel judged.

So if you’re not as judgmental toward other people, you might not feel as judged yourself. I apply this to driving, as well. Anytime someone does something stupid on the road, I try not to get upset, and instead remember a time when I did something similar, and I try to remember why it happened. The fact is, we’re all human, and that person who just cut you off might be a perfectly good driver who made just one mistake, and you were the one to have to deal with it.

I have no doubt I’ve been that person for other drivers, and the same could go for you.

“Youth is Wasted on the Young”

I don’t remember when or where I stumbled upon this quote, and no one seems to have a definitive answer for where it came from, but it’s had an impact on me.

This quote means, to me, that when you’re older, you’ll look back on your youth and realize all the things you could have done then that you wish you could do now. It means when you’re older, you might want to be healthier, but twenty-something you screwed that up.

The fact is, it’s a lot easier to do certain things when you’re younger. Sure, we grow wiser (or get more stuck in our ways) as we get older. But it’s harder to get back into shape later on, or even just lose weight. Science is on my side here. It’s not impossible, but it’s easier when you’re younger.

It’s also better to get off on the right foot early on, especially with education. I’m only 28 and I feel a lot better being a college senior now than I would have at 22. I would not have done as well. Part of this is just because of how much I’ve been able to learn on my own outside of school in the meantime, but part of it is that I now understand the importance of school’s impact on my future.

This quote is also the reason I prefer to take the stairs over the elevator unless I’m carrying a heavy burden or I’m injured.

Change Won’t Come to You

I mentioned something to this effect in my last post. Sometimes I’ll find myself lying around feeling sorry for myself. I think about everything that sucks about me and my life. And then I just keep lying there, doing nothing productive. Waiting to get better.

I’ve talked to friends who feel like they can’t do something, or that they’re not good enough for something. The saddest thing is when the solution is so simple, but I just can’t get through to them.

I’m still guilty of this, even after this realization. And anyone who’s noticed my post frequency lately already has an idea of what I mean.

This takes many forms. If I’m stuck following a rabbit hole of YouTube videos, I’ll think, when will I just get off the couch and stop watching YouTube all day?

Well why don’t you just get off the couch and stop watching YouTube, dummy?

You don’t have to be as rude to yourself as I am, but like we’ve covered already, I don’t really like me that much.

The point is, sometimes the solution is really simple, but it’s almost always easier said than done.

Photo by Ian Schneider on Unsplash

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